Tuesday, April 17

Censoring Farce: WorkFarce

Sometimes it's hard to distinguish the heroes and villains of social media. It is the person or persons who moves to censor supposed blog bullies? Or is it the anonymous blogger penning satirical prose? Or maybe, there never were any heroes or villains to begin with. Maybe there is only a whole bunch of people who could accidentally send us into the dark ages.

Sure, most people outside of the recruiting industry have never heard of WorkFarce, which was an anonymous satirical blogger who some might say crossed the line of professional decency while others might say made pointed observations of the absurdness of the industry, the world, and human nature in general. But for people who did know him, the surprise success of his blog seems well-grounded in its objective: give people a good laugh without revealing himself, his employer, or making apologies.

Most people will never hear of WorkFarce because one or several people tracked him down and contacted his employer, demanding that, he says, "I publicly reveal my identity, (who I am, what I do and who I work for) and then issue a public apology." Hoping to circumvent harm to himself, his family, and his employer, he elected self-censorship in the face of threat and ultimatum.

I'm all for calling a duck and duck, and in this case, the duck was blackmail. WorkFarce's only crime was naivete.

Yes, it is extremely naive to believe for one second, that as an anonymous blogger, you will remain anonymous forever, especially if you have taken to criticism, whether or not such criticisms are labeled satire. It is as naive as sending a critical e-mail without the assumption that someone might turn it in to the person you are criticizing. It is equally naive not to recognize that the closer your satire or criticisms touch the truth, the more likely someone will attempt to embarrass, malign, or censor you.

I see censorship as, once again, a growing trend in America and this trend is something that needs to be much more than watched. Censorship, misrepresentation of statements made within a context, and blackmail are beginning to win over "truthful, accurate and fair communication that facilitates respect and mutual understanding."

All around us, singular comments are taken out of context or turned into something they were never intended to be. Bryan Ferry, Don Imus, and a host of others are all being targeted by censors, blackmailers, and people who prey on the fears of others.

To be clear, while I do not endorse or condemn (though I may question their style, logic, and word choice) what any of the above public figures have said, we must be more careful not to confuse the cries of censorship as more valid than the speech they attempt to censor. The remedy for the abuse of free speech is always more free speech.

In an effort to keep this confined to a manageable topic, I was not a fan of WorkFarce and rarely read his material. Many people, however, did. We had an engagement once or twice, but nothing beyond that. On occasion, I freely admit there was something relevant in the writing and the wit could sometimes, er, once in a great while, be appreciated. No, I am not a fan of anonymous blogs, but far be it from me to judge what others feel they must do for the preservation of their jobs and livelihood. Being anonymous is their burden to bear, not mine or anyone else's.

I am also not a fan of blackmail. And in this case, the move to supposedly unmask, embarrass, and censor WorkFarce was pathetic at best, an exercise in malice at worst. Given WorkFarce has gone to great lengths to protect his employer (and hopefully did not attack others in the industry simply for the potential benefit of his employer), the only harm that could have been done to anyone was only what they chose to infer from his posts.

In fact, by most accounts, WorkFarce was not a potential shill, backed by people with political or business agendas. So given that the apparent unmaskers are hoping to conceal their own identities in doing so suggests to me the ultimate in hypocrisy.

Let me say it again: the remedy for the abuse of free speech is always more free speech, lest we forget the immortal words attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I did not speak out;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.


Ergo, be careful with cries for censorship. For when the worst comments go largely unanswered except for censors, even the worst ideas are more likely to take root within the fabric of the people for all time. Yes, though I am disgusted by the notion, moving to censor hate speech will only lead to more hate speech.

Sure, some might say it seems I am contradicting my own advice on message management within the context of strategic communication. But for me, the difference is exceedingly clear: message management is about trust, honesty, and consensus not fear, force, and censorship. Good night and good luck.

3 comments:

Rich on 4/17/07, 11:03 AM said...

More words:

I neglected an important link in this discussion from Recruiting.com. You can find it here.

Rich on 4/17/07, 3:45 PM said...

"The readers of WorkFarce (workfarce.wordpress.com) which was shut down in April of 2007 - have organized, mobilized and executed to keep it’s spirit alive…as we firmly believe that there is a little 'Farce in all of us.'" — WorkFarce(s) at www.workfarceblog.com

Rich on 4/19/07, 10:42 AM said...

Famous Last Words:

"COULD I have kept my blog going...SURE. I Simply would have had to reveal my identity, apologise for a couple of postings, and then write a PERMANENT DISCLAIMER on the "About WorkFarce" section on who I was, who I worked for and that the ideas and opinions represented on WorkFarce were not endorsed, reccomended or affliated with my employer (insert company name here)." — Workfarse, defending a new idea that he was not "forced" to move toward self-censorship.

Huh?

Post a Comment

 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template